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If you are interested in taking Dr. James Kraus' course
on nature writing (an online course available to all) please feel free to e-mail him...

Today is Saturday and it is quite hot as we (a youth group)hike along a trail in Palolo Valley. Ah, at last relief comes in the form of an occasional breeze or in the intermittent tree covered shade. After a little over a half-hour of clambering up and down a grass-covered trail, which alternates with red dirt, we reach the first waterfall. I am glad to take a break from the trail, because, in fact, I am quite afraid of some of the places we traverse where the trail is extremely narrow and drops off on the right hand side. I'm also glad to stop, because often when we go on hikes we tend to walk so fast that it seems like we are more interested in exercise than in enjoying nature.

Now, it is peaceful. One person softly sings some church songs. They seem to blend in well with the song of the waterfall and so I quietly sit, listening and observing that which is going on about me. I am sitting on a low dirty brown rock on the right hand side of a small body of water. It seems like I am at the bottom of a forty-five foot cylinder, which is lined with velvety green moss, black rocks and varying trees and plants. (Perhaps it is how an ant would feel at the bottom of an empty can of soup. Looking up it appears that there is a flat rim around the top where the waterfall comes sliding down along smooth steps of rock.)

The two-foot wide rush of water separates into little strands and drops gently into the small pool of water below. The murky water in this large wading pool hides rocks, leaves and branches of many years past, which are contained in this pool that has a two foot high rock rim which then creases back into low caves. These then fold back to the front again and climb steeply up.

Yet, this rock partition, gutted by low caves at its base, only surrounds the water on two sides of the circle. The third side is a steep rock wall with rocks jutting out at various heights and lengths then meeting with the fourth side, which drifts downward into a stream. Eventually, this stream meets up with a small dam. Engraved into it's concrete surface are the words, "Palolo Farm 1978 Live and let live." Yet, the water doesn't stop to read these words. Instead it continues on its path, flowing over this dam, which does not hold a lot of water back.

It is peaceful and cool and I am relaxed. I was going to say "I am happy," but that isn't quite true, because in a sense it seems more to be peaceful sadness. Yet, still I am not sure even if those words can adequately explain my feelings...Oh well...

It's rather interesting how as I observe nature my descriptions tend to change. For example, I am now looking at the water again. Yet, it doesn't seem quite so murky as when I first glanced it's way. Now, I would say it looks more like someone spilled a brown dye into it, which lends it a sense of restfulness as a few small green, brown and yellow leaves float on its surface as if taking a nap.

Oh look!! A tiny brown frog has come to see who is visiting his house. He jumps and with a delicate splish he lands in the water and swims a short distance. He stops and jumps again to hide beneath the ledge of a rock. Pale hands reach in to catch him. He swims away in fear.

I smile as at last this tiny frog jumps toward a would-be catcher startling her and making her jump. Yet, I also feel sorry for the little frog, because how would I like it if someone reached into my home just to touch me to see what I feel like? I don't think I would like it very much, but, I must laugh inwardly, because in a sense the others remind me of frogs. They are crouched in search of the run away frog and they look ready to leap at any moment.

At last the small brown frog finds it's freedom as we become distracted by a tadpole, the first one I have seen in my life. It is hiding beneath a leaf that looks like a skeleton of some kind of animal. Yet, this rib-like leaf is not protection enough and the tadpole is caught. It has a round head, the size of a large marble which is connected to a squirmy tail. . . Look. . . another one. It is bigger and I see it's tiny eyes are on the top of it's head. (In a sense it looks like a sting ray.) I hold it and smile as it tickles my hands. It is very soft.

Well, it is time to go, but wait. . . a little brown frog has been caught. . . Yet, we are acting outside of our stereotypical gender groups, because none of the guys will touch it. They don't even want to get near it. Instead, we three girls (my sister, an honorary sister and I) gently touch and hold it. It's webbed feet seem to have small claws as he tries to get away, but as we talk softly and move slowly he seems to relax and almost enjoy being held. He is a light chocolatey brown and he is warm--not cold and clammy. He is neither soft nor hard; kind of like a soft rock, or maybe a moss covered rock. He has a soft belly and his sloped back is bumpy, though not really rough--definitely not slimy. He looks cute, but we must head back. *smile*

So, we release the tiny brown frog and begin the trek back to the start of the trail. As we run down the narrow trail birds chirp, scolding us for disturbing the peaceful sounds of nature with the heavy thud of hiking boots. Suddenly, we stop and look out over the valley to the mountainside across the way. The trees on the other side are so tall. It looks like a rain forest with a ¾ moon hovering just to the left of it.

The setting sun strikes the tall trees turning them to golden posts, but we don't stop for long. Instead, we continue on only stopping occasionally to hear the gurgle of water flowing in a hidden stream at the bottom of the valley. Or, we stop to notice how the healthy green is broken by the infrequent isolated tree that is dead, but still stands. It's empty branches are elegant though in sharp contrast to the tress surrounding it.

We are in the car now headed home. What a beautiful view as we drive down the mountain. The sky is purplish pink, very soft, but very vivid. In fact it seems almost fiery. The clouds are cotton candy for the eyes. Yet, the clouds also seem to be the mixed color of cinnamon, guava-orange and bubble gum shave ice which has just fallen on hard gray cement. Yet, as we head around a corner the v-shaped window of the mountains and sky meets our eyes again and we discover the more brilliant colors have faded into a muted gray. It looks almost foggy or polluted with just a tinch of yellowish orange coloring breaking up the monotonous gray.

This hike which we (a youth group) have just completed once again sparks my desire to begin hiking again on a more regular basis and so the next day, after church, my two younger sisters, my parents, our five dogs and I went on a short hike. This trail is at the end of the road in Kahana Valley Park.

First, we walked up a cement road for about fifteen minutes. We then signed in at the mailbox and began to walk quickly down the rock-studded, red-dirt trail. In no time at all we had reached the swimming hole. When we reached the end of the trail, I slid slowly into the dusty green water of the swimming hole.

To the right there is a smaller and shallower area of water, which is quite calm. The icy cold water gathers strength as, in a few areas, it slides over the slippery, algae covered, man-made, concrete dam. The water then falls a few feet into a larger body of water, which we call the swimming hole. Length-wise and width-wise this body of water it is at least the size of an average pool, such as the one at the Windward YMCA.

The current is strong. I enjoy swimming against it. My little black poodle barks at me trying to encourage me to get out of the water's cool depths. But, instead, I swim. He is placed in the water and he paddles over to me and then scrambles up onto my back. He is cute. He wants to protect me, yet, I am the one "rescuing" him.

The mosquitoes are here in hoards and so we do not stay long, but on the way back we occasionally stop to look at plants and trees. One plant has interesting buds (if that is what they are). It has small one-inch circumference brown balls. (At least that's somewhat what they look like.) These brown balls when looked at closely appear to be a collection of tiny brown tubes, which look like minute cinnamon sticks. When viewed at a closer level, with a magnifying glass, the top seems to have a covering of fine hairs that look like they might hurt when touched, but are actually somewhat soft. When this part of the plant is shaken it sounds like a rattle one might give a baby.

It's leaves, when they are small are very soft. They are covered with soft fuzz, which actually looks like tiny bits of fiberglass. When the leaf becomes older and larger it seems to lose its softness. Well, I guess it still is soft, but it seems to have lost it's fuzzy coating.

Another tree, which my dad and I stopped at, had reddish and green leaves. These leaves are soft and leathery and are long and thin like an oblong. This tree has little black berries shaped like balls that have been slightly flattened on the top and bottom so they won't roll as easily. I do not know what it is. So, my dad and I move onto another plant which is called Koster's Curse (Clidemia hirta). It has hairy fruits and it's leaves are lanceolate with most of its veins seeming to go straight across. It is very soft and has a sense of being somewhat similar to bubble-wrap. The leaves are papery and hairy on both sides and are more or less indented at the base, with five veins spreading from the base. It is a noxious weed.

One thing that this hike was lacking though was the voice of someone reading a piece of nature writing such as my professor, Dr. Kraus read to our Nature Writing class when we hiked as a group up to Manoa Falls. It is an easy and short hike and it really was not muddy. The path is very gravelly and well marked. It is a beautiful place with many different types of greenery growing in wild abandon. The trees seem to be old and well coated in moss. Also, as we were walking along I saw a fallen tree trunk, which looked like it was home to one small flower that appeared to be growing out of it. It is so peaceful. I love hiking, because as I walk along the trail I have a chance to think in quietness and somehow when I leave things seem to look even just a little bit better than when I first began.

Anyway, back to the hike. *smile* When we got to Manoa Falls the small pool at it's base was very shallow and the water barely trickled down the steep rock wall into the stream. In a sense it reminded me of home, because the water sliding down the rock face and dripping into the pool below sounded like rain water dripping into a bucket placed beneath a leak in our roof.

Our class disperses to out-cropping rocks and our professor reads a poem entitled "The Fish." I have read it before, but I love to hear others read aloud. Tiny rain drops sprinkle us, cooling us off and lending a pleasing effect to the scene. I wish I could have stayed longer. Yet, in a way I am glad we did not stay. I would have loved to stay just to further observe and envelop myself in the sweet presence of nature. However, I am glad we did not stay longer, because we probably would have had to write in our journals and then read out loud what we had written and I do not like to read what I've written, because I do not feel that I write very well...

Well, just as "all good things must come to an end" so also does my day as I think back to a time when I was walking to Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii from Chaminade University and noticed what looked like a somewhat narrow trail leading up a mountain along Dole Street. Deciding it couldn't hurt to see if it was a trail I proceeded to go on a little hike. I enjoyed climbing up the rocky path. Alone. Pleasant. I walked through brown and dried grass. Yet, off to my right a few hundred yards away, were lush green trees. As I sat down on a black lava rock I watched with peace and happiness as birds, so small they could fit in my hand, flitted gaily about, chirping, twittering and just singing in general merriment. At first, I thought I saw soft white rose petals drifting in the gentle breeze. Yet, as I watched I saw them turn into the wings of a delicate butterfly. Unfortunately, I was not able to stay very long and as I left the grass and sparse flowers seemed to wave goodbye in the rippling breeze and a bright orange butterfly fluttered around me as if trying to make me stay.

Yes, nature and solitude are things I treasure.



11:00am...are we ever going to go?

We were going to leave at 9:00am, but of course knowing my family like I do I knew that wouldn't happen. *smile* At 10:30am various members of the family were still getting ready. I had no "grungy" clothes to wear so my dad was going to take me to "Savers," which is about a 5 minute drive from here, so I could just run in and get something "grungy." *smile* Of course, my sisters wanted to come to and being girls, even though we were looking for something we wouldn't mind getting dirty, we of course had to find things that went well together and looked nice on us. *smile*

It's great to see my dad's reaction to the question, "Daddy, which do you think looks better?" *grin*

What we were planning to do today was to go on a hike, off the beaten path, where we would be able to get very dirty. Okay, well maybe that wasn't our intention...*smile*

What we really had planned was to do a blind walk and also to take turns hiding from each other and having everyone else find the person who was hiding. This second activity might have involved tunneling into the ground or burying oneself in leaves. In other words, it would probably have involved actions that might ruin ones clothing. So, we had to dress accordingly. *smile*

Home...Jump out of the car. Race inside. See who can get changed the quickest. I win and am ready in about one minute. *smile* Then come my sisters, racing out just ahead of my dad. Finally... we are on our way.

Along Nuuanu, which is off of the Pali Highway my dad parks the car. We have stopped at the ponds. We cross the street and head down an easy, bamboo lined trail. Who can walk the quietest? My sister Amanda and I take our shoes off and are able to walk more silently than my dad and other sister, Tiffany.

Muddy part...put the shoes back on. *smiles* Wow, the trail is short. We are already at a somewhat small waterfall. We cross over the top of it, by stepping carefully from one dry rock to another. Hurry...Daddy is running ahead, trying to hide from us. I catch up to him, we try to hide, but Tiff and Mandi have caught up to us.

Let's go off the trail. *smile* Climbing over and under and through a tangled mass of trees and vines. Some of these limbs are bouncy, almost like trampolines. Perhaps they are balance beams with a bounce. *smile* Well, we have come out of this now into a forest-like area. Once again my dad races ahead. I see him and then...he disappears. I have an idea as to where he is...yep, he's there behind that tree. I wave, smile and pass him by. Then I hide.

Not much later and all three of them walk right by me. I hear Mandi saying, "I think she went this way." Tiff and Mandi head off one way and as they pass I slowly move to the other side of the tree. Oops, be careful, there's Daddy. I can't be seen. He passes me and slowly I move behind the tree until everyone is in front of me. Then quietly I begin to follow them. I walk when they walk and stop when they stop. This is hard. There are so many leaves and twigs that it is difficult to walk with out crackling, crunching or snapping something. I follow them for quite a ways...uh oh...I've been spotted. Now I see them run ahead and know Mandi, who had spotted me has told them that she saw me and so they are all going to hide from me. But, I run and almost catch up with them. They hide, but not well enough, because they did not have enough time. *smile* It's fun to follow others when they think they are following you. *smile*

Now, it's time to take turns hiding from each other. First Tiffany goes, we give her five minutes to hide and then we search. She hides well.

Then it is Mandi's turn. She also hides well.

Well, it is now almost 2:00 and we must head back, because Mandi has a babysitting commitment. We head back and get lost, but we aren't lost, because we have a general idea how to get back. *smile* All we have to do is listen for the sound of the stream. Ah, there it is now. I hear the waterfall. Look...there's a blue marker, and there's an orange one. I see another blue one...

We took a shortcut on the way back, because it has taken us alot less time to get back to where we started then when we headed off down the trail (or off the trail depending on what we felt like doing). *smile* Once again we cross the waterfall and head back to the beginning. As we get closer to the start of the trail I head off on another trail which veers off to the right. Everyone else continues on. I race along, to see where the trail might head, because I can't keep them waiting long.

Wow! They don't know what they've missed. I wonder what that big monument is that I can see through the trees? There's a rockwall. I wonder if a house used to be here or could I be coming to a heiau? Oh, it's so beautiful here. I've come across King Kamehameha III and Queen Kalama's Summer Palace. This stone monument has a metal plate which says they once had 10,000 people here for a feast.

I'm glad I came here. There are still some remaining stone arches where the palace's four walls must have been. This is so pretty. *smile* However, I must race back, because the other's will be wondering about me....


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© May, 1998--Heather Dozier

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